By Shabbir Hussain
ISLAMABAD, Sunday, Novemeber 29, 2020 (WNP/DL): European Union (EU) Ambassador to Pakistan Androulla Kaminara Sunday said the EU was trying to help the most vulnerable segments of the society by ensuring basic amenities of lives at their doorsteps, including health, clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene environment amid surging second wave of the COVID-19.
Talking to this scribe, she said the EU had signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and committed to provide Euro10 million to boost the latter’s assistance operations for Afghan refugees and their host communities in Pakistan.
The funding was aimed to focus on mitigating the short and medium-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, besides expanding the UNHCR’s health efforts for refugee and host communities, she added.
Another important component of the new project, Androulla Kaminara said, would be implementing activities for empowering vulnerable Afghan refugees and host communities by ensuring livelihood opportunities.
The three-year project would be implemented across the country and was expected to benefit some 370,000 Afghan refugees and Pakistani host communities, she added.
Meanwhile, UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan Noriko Yoshida welcomed the EU’s contribution, saying such support amid the current COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the EU’s commitment to “leaving no one behind”.
“This support is truly significant. At a time when it is most urgently needed, the EU will help make a difference in the lives of so many refugees and Pakistani host communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
She said the UNHCR’s overall emergency response was in support of efforts by Pakistan to prevent and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UNHCR had been advocating for the inclusion of refugees in the government’s COVID-19 Prevention and Response Plan, she added.
Androulla Kaminara, while sharing details of the EU funding since July 2018, said the EU had contributed €37 million from its development budget and €10 million from its humanitarian resources to support the Afghan refugees and their host communities, in particular through UNHCR’s regional programmes.
In May 2020, she said, the EU announced a €150 million package to support Pakistan’s efforts in addressing the short-term and long-term public health and socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the new funding of €10 million for the UNHCR.
This funding, she added would be channelled towards three sectors: health, WASH and social protection.
In the health sector, it would boost health initiatives by helping to provide personal protective equipment, medical supplies and other relief items to health facilities in support of refugees and host communities, she said.
Community outreach on the prevention and response to COVID-19 would also be strengthened, she added.
In the WASH sector, she said the EU’s contribution would help enable UNHCR to upgrade or construct facilities such as toilets, handwash basins and water pumps in schools, health centres and communal facilities in or close to refugee villages – benefitting both the refugees and Pakistanis.
In terms of social protection, the assistance would contribute to UNHCR’s emergency cash programme for the most vulnerable registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan. “The one-time cash assistance will mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by helping refugees meet their basic needs,” she added.